The apocalypse is upon us in the form of a sports game “with beasts so terrible that the ancient symbols of St. John will seem like cooing doves and cupids.” It was German poet Heinrich Heine’s quote that came to mind as I first played NBA 2K6, the basketball game with Shaq on the cover. The game itself is pretty good, if you ignore the players skating across the court instead of running and the announcers whose audio seems out of synch with the video. Yet game wise the game is solid and the cheerleaders and fans are well rendered. Here’s the rub: at certain breaks (halftime, for instance) I get ads for Power Bars, Gatorade or Nike. This is the biggest bull perpetrated upon us by gaming companies thus far, and I’ll tell you why. It’s bad enough that I have to see an ad three or ten times during a 20-minute game, but the ad isn’t creative: it’s more like an annoying, early banner ad on the Internet, and it royally peeves me. And hey, if they’re gonna inject ads into a game, where’s the discount in price for the humble consumer? Therefore, I cannot in any good conscience recommend NBA 2K6 to anyone. If this bland and humorless display of advertisement is the future of gaming, I will quit this gruesome ghetto of reviewing and sanguinely return to reviewing pop music because no matter how cutthroat the business of music and music reviewing is, there isn’t this exasperatingly blatant advertising throughout most songs, even songs by Christina and Kelly. All right, I’ll stay . . . for a while.
NBA LIVE 06 only has ads on the dorma boards on the ends of the court. They’re small, and when I see them, I don’t feel like I’m being sold out. One of the achievements/gimmicks in this game is the Superstar mode where players like Vince Carter shine like superheroes. It also makes the NBA’s humans seem invincible, and that’s a little scary. Yet it works, and when the superstars shine, your foes will quickly scowl and moan in defeat. One aside: what’s up with announcer Marv Albert? He sounds like he’s on Xanax. Is he paid by the opposing team to lull you into submission?
You gotta love LOST IN BLUE for the DS. It’s something like Survivor meets The Blue Lagoon, a game that’s pretty deep and uses the touch screen as it’s never been used before. Sure, there should have been some scary elements of Lost put in the game, but where else are you gonna get to milk a goat?
WE LOVE KATAMARI is a wonderfully peculiar game, the essence of Japanese quirkiness as far as console offerings are concerned. The goal here is to roll katarmaris (think big, tacky matzo balls) over everything that sticks and then send them into the skies so they become stars. I can’t tell you why this is so much fun. But if you have a collector compulsion like I do, you’ll happily bop to the crazy katamari music and accumulate anything that sticks just as the wacky, animated king bids you to do.
The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
Publisher: VU Games
Take The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, a game that actually portrays the lunking green monolith as a complex and frightening monster, not some dim-witted Frankenstein clone. From the moment you begin to play, tossing 18-wheelers at helicopters, you’re struck by his varied abilities, the expansive graphics and the true-to-the-comic cut scenes that are both full of hubris and melodrama. It’s one of the year’s best games.
Ultimate Spider-Man is certainly no slouch, either. With better writing than The Hulk (Activision employed the comic book writer and artist team) but not quite the astounding gameplay, you feel like you’re inside the comic book itself. No, you don’t feel flat and two-dimensional. You feel some how free to take on the criminals in New York (where’s the Jr. Gotti character, though?). Pumped full of teenage angst, spider silk with unbelievable tensile strength and a big mouth, you’ll deal with everyone from Nick Fury to Venom. Plus, the cel-shaded graphics make me want to own some of the original art from this game.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse
If you want a deep, comic book-inspired RPG that lets you adjust your mutant’s abilities to your steely heart’s content, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse might tickle your fancy. You’ve got 100 enemies, well over a dozen mutant heroes (not Tom Dale Delay, but Wolverine, etc.), and you have to (big shocker) stop the world from begin taken over. If you like a lot of ability-tinkering with your hack and slash, this game gets it right.
Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
Publisher: Electronic Arts
The tough geek in me, the one who savored Remnick’s King of the World, really wanted Marvel Nemesis, the fighting game based in the Marvel universe, to work. Hey, who wouldn’t want to use The Human Torch to punch out The Hulk (especially when he seemed so indestructible in Ultimate Destruction? But this ain’t no Soul Calibur. It’s not even Rocky Legends. There are just not enough fighting styles and depth of story for this to work, even as a one-on-one punch ’em up. Note to the developers for the sequel: Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur.
Developer: Quantum Dream
What if you started killing people? Not because you’d had enough of the suck-ass way of the world that had so embittered you. But because . . . well, you don’t know why. And it’s a trend. Good people elsewhere in New York City are whacking their fellowmen. That’s the premise of INDIGO PROPHECY, an eerie adventure story that recalls the games Myst (the adventure part) and Johnny Mnemonic (the interactive movie part). Yeah, the controls are a little twitchy at times, but you’re really inside the emotion of this mystery (helped along by a disturbing score and decent voice acting). Question is, can you get to the bottom of it? And, do you really dare to?
Myst V: End of Ages
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Speaking of Myst, the last episode of the landmark series has just been released. MYST V: END OF AGES is rife with the brain-crushing, ulcer-inducing puzzles that the series relies so heavily upon. Yet this is a 3D game, and you can explore pretty much everywhere your heart desires. And don’t be too afraid of those lanky Bharo folk. They’re gonna help you out sooner than you think. Beyond the puzzles, the other Myst signature is still here: graphics that blow you away. In the snow environment, you actually feel like you’re part of “Slava’s Snow Show,” inside one blustery blizzard.